What makes a man successful? Is it money, nice cars, a big house, a good-looking wife, or all of the above? In the film The Wolf of Wall Street, based on the autobiography of the same name, Leonardo DiCaprio portrays Jordan Belfort, a tycoon who seemingly has it all. He has a good job, tons of money, and a beautiful house. Despite these riches, we are taken on a journey to see the other side of living such a life. The film poses this question: in order to have it all, does one have to lie, cheat, and steal to achieve that success?
Jordan Belfort is an up and coming stock broker who gets laid off from his first job after the market crashes on Black Monday. To make ends meet, he takes a job in a Long Island boiler room selling questionable penny stocks. Due to his Wall Street training, he is able to sell these stocks with ease and eventually recruits Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), as well as some other immoral characters to start a pump and dump company. This attracts the attention of federal agents, who question the ethics of this new company. Belfort enjoys the high life, but will he be able to keep this illegal business going or will his deeds eventually catch up to him?
Let me start this review by saying I thought Leonardo DiCaprio was really good in this role. Do I think it was his best performance to date? No, but I do think the role suited him well and showcases why he is one of the great actors of our generation. I would have been really upset if he had won the Oscar for this movie because I think he has had other, more deserving performances that have gone overlooked. I think this was a good performance in a not-so-great movie. After a while, the story became predictable. I got to one point in the movie where I looked over at my brother and said, “I bet he’s going to have sex with this hooker and then do a line of coke on her ass.” It was three hours of the same repetitive story line, and I think the film could have been edited down more, with some of the repeated scenes left on the cutting room floor.
Another thing I questioned was Jonah Hill’s Oscar nomination. I thought he was very deserving of one for Moneyball, but in this performance he seemed to play an early 90’s banker version of Jonah Hill. I thought there was nothing memorable about his performance, which seemed very campy and appeared that he was trying too hard. I did think that Matthew McConaughey (in his one scene of the movie) was much more memorable as Belfort’s mentor and first boss Mark Hanna. Also a great breakout performance was given by Margot Robbie as Jordan’s second wife, Naomi. I thought acting-wise she was a great match for DiCaprio, and despite being a new comer to the business, she was able to hold her own and even outshine DiCaprio in some scenes. I look forward to seeing where her career takes her because I think she will be a big star.
In the end, I thought The Wolf of Wall Street faltered more than it succeeded. I think the film was just too long. Had some of the less important scenes been edited down or cut out completely, the film would have had a better flow and been more enjoyable all around. I think it bought up a good point about the lengths some would go to for success, but the message was lost in too many scenes of coke binges and sex with random hookers.
3 out of 5 Stars
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
R, 180 Minutes